Economic difficulties await the small community of Palawan artists and cultural workers because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism which is the main industry that supports them.
Ceasar Sammy Magbanua, project manager of the provincial government’s Palawan Arts and Culture Council (PACC), acknowledged this scenario in a presentation he made Tuesday before the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Socio-Cultural Pillar.
While the gradual reopening of the local economy is seeking the revival of some demand for the artists’ services and crafts, he said that the pandemic has pushed its stakeholders to adapt to the changed economic landscape.
Magbanua estimates that around 1,000 cultural workers including dancers, painters, sculptors, theatre actors, musicians, and singers have been displaced by the pandemic and “had to find other sources of income.”
“The closure of resorts, restaurants, and hotels also resulted in the loss of jobs of hundreds of our local performers and artists,” he said.
He added that even government programs that used to be supportive of the sector had been affected by the pandemic.
“Funds allocated for culture and arts were realigned for COVID-related measures,. Culture and arts became the least priority in government allocation and even in the consciousness of the people as survival became the primordial concern. Reinvention, retooling, and acquisition of new skills became the norm for all cultural workers,” Magbanua said.
While Magbanua assured that the provincial government worked closely with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for cash assistance measures, no details were given about how many artists and cultural workers availed of the programs.
Magbanua added that re-opening tourism sites and allowing the set up of more bazaars and exhibits will hopefully help local artists earn once more.
“In the gradual re-opening of tourism and heritage sites, we had the launching of bazaars and exhibits where local artists could sell their wares. We are also looking into holding virtual events, especially for the dancers,” he said.